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Philly Weekend in Late March -- How's My List Look?

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  • ml77 Feb 20, 2012 10:04 PM
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Hey Chowhounds,

My wife and I are coming from NYC to Philly to enjoy a long weekend, check out the Springsteen exhibit at NCC, and enjoy as much great food and drink along the way as we can. Would love to get advice. Here's my plan:

Arrive (Friday)

Dinner: Amada (Have seen that some think you need to order the right things here -- any advice on what the right things are? Or should we go for the chef's tasting?)

Saturday

Dinner: Vetri

Sunday

Brunch: Lacroix

Dinner: Talulah's Garden

Thinking about hitting DiNic's at some point for the pulled pork sandwich as well. Bars I'm thinking about include Franklin Mortgage, Ranstead Room, Farmers Cabinet, and Bar 201. Also looking for dessert advice: any great places for sweets, especially post-dinner?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Good list. However, I think you should include one or two of our great byob's. Bibou and Littlefish would be at the top of my list. Also, I don't know when you are coming but (unless you already have one) you should make your Vetri reservation. I think it's still two months out. I would call exactly two months before the date you want. If I'm wrong on this, someone here here will correct me. It is difficult, though, to get Vetri reservations.

    4 Replies
    1. re: JanR

      The hardest time to snag a reservation for Vetri is Friday nights. I did a quick search on opentable on Vetri for this weekend and you could get a seating at 6pm or 830. I think that if you are flexible in the time you want to eat, you should be ok in finding a reservation (though do not wait.. ). I you prefer to eat a civilized time like 7pm, then make sure you get your reservation in now.

      1. re: cwdonald

        If it were me, I'd substitute Zahav for Talula's Garden. While the latter has very good food, nothing really struck me as being a "must eat" whereas the lamb mesibah at Zahav is another story. Do hit DiNic's and browse the Reading Terminal Market. As far as desserts, I am honestly drawing a blank. Capogiro has good gelato and the Franklin Fountain (temporarily closed for renovations) has good ice cream creations, but since Naked Chocolate closed a while back I can't think of any really good dessert destination in town.

        1. re: bluehensfan

          La Golosa (near 6th & Catherine) is a good dessert destination.

          http://golosacafe.com/

          1. re: bluehensfan

            +1 on Zahav's roasted lamb (needs to be ordered in advance).

      2. Per JanR's suggestion, maybe Friday night is the night to incorporate a BYOB. Bibou and Little Fish are awesome. I'd also suggest Kanella and Fond. Kanella is one of my favorites and may feel less heavy given your plans for Vetri and brunch at Lacroix (also good to snag a rez here quickly). Kanella is on Open Table, so it's easy to reserve.

        Pick up some whoopie pies at Flying Monkey in the Reading Terminal Market, they'd make a tasty late night dessert.

        1. Sounds like you like cocktails from your bar picks... I'd suggest a trip to Southwark, maybe instead of Bar 201 since you're hitting Lacroix anyway and Southwark's focus on classic cocktails complements your other choices which are more modern. It's a little out of the way but only a short cab ride from your other places. The food there is great too, could be good for a snack if you end up with a late reservation anywhere, or maybe for dessert after Amada as it's not too far, walkable even if the weather is mild.

          1. If you actually have room for full dinner after brunch at Lacroix, my hat's off to you. I'd plan something very, very light for that night - perhaps somewhere like Amada then if you find you only want a few tapas and drinks.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sockii

              So, you're saying that when you have brunch at Lacroix, you don't eat again the rest of the day?! Our reservation is at 11:30. If we don't eat again the rest of the day, I would think we'll be hungry at least by 9 PM or so.

              I get that it's a ton of food, but am I missing something? Even after a monster meal I need to eat again 8 hours later.

            2. I like a desert + cocktail option personally, and here are a few ideas that just hit me off the top of my head:

              -Barbuzzo for a salted carmel budino. They are open late, and maybe you'd at least have a chance for a seat at the bar. I've never been there late night.

              -Beau Monde for crepes. Then you can dance the calories off upstairs at l'Etage.

              -This is way off of the reservation, and perhaps repetitive for regular CH'ers as I posted about this last week, but I just had a lot of fun at Bar Ferdinand enjoying the sherry tasting, and I am a complete sucker for a churro.

              Also, I second (or third) the idea of a BYOB inclusion.

              And lastly, for Amada, IMHO the best thing to get is chorizo a la plancha, and I also enjoy the charcuterie, and lamb meatballs there. I'm part of a dairy-free couple, so I can't speak for the flatbreads. People speak well of the pernil asado, which can serve as a not-quite-the-same-proxy for the suckling pig if you are only a party of 2.

              3 Replies
              1. re: tfalbo

                Personally I think the suckling pig at Amada is (unfortunately) aptly named. But I am a big fan of most of the other items on their menu...

                1. re: bluehensfan

                  I agree with bluehens fan. I would caution that if you order the tasting menu make sure you dont have any dietary restrictions. I dined there once with someone that didnt eat any pig product and not once twice but three times they brought out dishes with some sort of pig product on it.

                2. re: tfalbo

                  Anyone have the paella at Amada? I'm going there soon for a celebratory dinner for my mother, and she's been obsessed about trying the paella, so I was just wondering if anyone has tried it, and if so, what the results were.

                3. Sounds wonderful. But I hope you're getting the early seating for brunch at Lacroix.
                  It's not to be missed, but you might not want to eat anything else all day!

                  1. Great choices. For Amada, the tasting menu is nice because you don't have to make as many decisions, and everything is wonderful. However, I would definitely recommend the Tortilla Espanol and the Stuffed Dates. These are both extraordinarily good. Talula's is gorgeous and worth it just for the atmosphere, but the food is also excellent. The service is more "fine dining" although it's not stuffy at all. For dessert, Capogiro for gelato is one of the best and only dessert-only destinations (someone else mentioned the sad closing of Naked Chocolate, and I too mourn its loss). You're probably better off getting some Tastykakes from the deli and eating them in your hotel room. I recommend the Kandy Kakes or Butterscotch Krimpets. Don't forget the Hanks Root Beer!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: BelgianBeerMistress

                      I second Capogiro (recently named by Nat Geo as the best ice cream parlor in the world). There are a few locations and their website lists which gelatos and sorbettos are served in each of their locations, daily. If you have time for more ice cream, note that Franklin Fountain is a delicious time-traveling experience, and also a critics' darling. As you like dessert and you will be going to the Reading Terminal Market to visit DiNic's, you might want to visit Metropolitan Bakery for lovely slices of cake.

                      Regarding Amada, I agree that the tortilla espanola is delicious, and also love the chipirones and the albondigas (the latter are quite rich). While I love Amada, I am often underwhelmed by their desserts.

                      As you haven't many replies to your question about wine and beer...Tria is a lovely wine bar and Monk's Cafe and Eulogy have impressive beer selections. The Farmers' Cabinet cocktails are a literary hipster's dream.

                      1. re: Mr. Peabody

                        Lol Mr. Peabody, love your description of Farmer's Cabinet's cocktails (though they are well made.. ). Really should give a shout out to the great saison's that are being made by Terry Hawbaker especially for Farmer's Cabinet. Terry used to be at Bullfrog in upstate PA, and left to join Farmer's Cabinet. For a variety of reasons a brewpub in Farmer's Cabinet never materialized, and Terry is brewing beers especially for the Farmer's Cabinet down in Alexandria, VA. The saison's are world class, and until they start to be bottled, you won't find them anywhere else.

                        1. re: Mr. Peabody

                          Monk's is a good place for beers, just note that they are almost exclusively in the Belgian style. If you're looking for local micro-brews, Standard Tap usually has a bevy of local options. South Philly Tap Room also has a diverse list of American craft beer not limited to the immediate area.

                          1. re: Mr. Peabody

                            Farmers Cabinet has GREAT fresh juice cocktails. Capogiro on 13th street is one of the coolest spots in town. I really enjoy the veal meatball pizza and the 'stache' pizza at Zavino... Stache pizza now comes with whole wheat crust... which i think makes it better.

                            I also think that Dandelion is a great place to stop in Philly, Fish and Chip and the pork terreine are excellent. I think they are open for brunch

                        2. Your plans look pretty good to me, but one thing I'd really suggest is to switch out Amada for Tinto. I've eaten at Amada quite a few times over the years, the last time being December, and it's really starting to feel a bit tired. The food never changes and the servers seem bored and uninterested compared to how it used to be. On the other hand, I think Tinto is turning out some amazing food- they have great, helpful servers. The manager I met is doing all the right things IMO. They are right next door to Village Whiskey, so stopping there for a cocktail or two would be a great way to end the night after dinner at Tinto.

                          Ranstead Room is a must- even if you have to wait, just give them your cell phone # and go over to the bar at El Rey and wait- it will definitely be worth the wait. MUCH better than Franklin Mortgage.

                          1. Hey everyone,

                            Thanks so much for the tips -- keep em comin!

                            I should have mentioned but I already have resies for the meals listed. I've got an 11 AM for brunch at Lacroix, so I'll think we'll be hungry come dinner time, even if it's a bit later than usual.

                            I definitely love beer and wine as well as cocktails, so if you have any great spots for that I'd appreciate it. Especially local brews or something unique that I can't find here in NYC.

                            Thanks again.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: ml77

                              When at Lacroix for brunch if a caviar lover. You can ask for whole containers of their very good American sturgeon and they will keep them coming. It is the big reason l keep returning.

                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                The service there is indeed great!

                              2. re: ml77

                                For interesting and/or local beers, your best bets would likely be Alla Spina and Farmer's Cabinet for the former, and Standard Tap for the latter (as noted above). I have only actually had cocktails at Farmer's Cabinet, but they had a very interesting beer list at their former spot, and seem to offer a similar beer list at FC. Alla Spina has several interesting Italian beers. Be advised that you will be paying for 10 oz pours at Alla Spina, even for lower alcohol content drafts.

                                Preferred wine spots would include Tria, and, perhaps moreso for the wine than the food, Ristorante Panorama (though the food is by no means bad). RP has one of the most extensive by the glass lists that I've come across, and you are able to do flights. And there are probably others that I am forgetting as well.

                                1. re: ml77

                                  Am a line cook in two different restaurants outside of center city Philly and would very much agree with a couple of the comments that have been made.

                                  Swap out Amada with one of our awesome BYOs. Top choices for me would be the already mentioned Bibou and Little Fish, as well as Koo Zee Doo.

                                  Swap out Talula's Garden for Zahav. No offense meant to the crew there -- they do GREAT work and Aimee's created a great Philadelphia spot. But in that you're only here for a weekend, I think Zahav is not to be missed. You'll have a memorable meal at either restaurant, but I just feel like Zahav has that sparkle, that something extra that makes your dining experience that much richer. An unexpected ingredient that really makes a dish pop. An Israeli wine recommended by a server that you never would've picked but is everything you were looking for. That's the kind of thing that I'm talking about.

                                  Also, on the cocktails front, Ela at 3rd & Bainbridge has some excellent options.

                                  Regardless, have a great trip and I hope that Philly does all of us proud in providing some awesome food experiences for you and your wife!

                                  1. re: fancynewbeesly

                                    Am intrigued by the praise for Zahav. Can I get the lamb shoulder without ordering the tasting menu?

                                    1. re: ml77

                                      Short answer is no. And it must be pre ordered. FWIW they also have a new item which is a bone in ribeye for two that is intriguing as well.

                                      1. re: cwdonald

                                        Thanks for the info. I'll probably stick with the lamb, as a good ribeye is easier to get here in NYC than a great lamb.

                                        1. re: ml77

                                          Take a look at the menu to familiarize yourself with the types of dishes that are available. The lamb is fabuluous, but any of the dishes cooked over the coals are quite flavorful, and the rib eye is dry aged, and should be a fantastic piece of meat.
                                          The only thing I would encourage you to have if you get the lamb is a big appetite.

                                          http://zahavrestaurant.com/menus/dinn...

                                2. I moved here form NYC a year ago. Philly is a good restaurant town, but I agree with the poster who advised you to drop Amada: it is seriously overrated. My last visit--and it will be my last--was at the beginning of this year. The food was mediocre and the service was terrible. The room, though, is lovely.
                                  The gelato at Capogiro is excellent, though the place itself is not somewhere you'd want to spend any time.
                                  Have a good trip! Enjoy Vetri!

                                  1. We're coming to Philly at the end of March as well (and also for Springsteen!). I'm thinking of going to Lacroix for their $16 breakfast buffet, but from reading comments on other threads it seems it is pretty hoity-toity. We're basically meat-and-potatoes types and this prospect is lightly intimidating, but I've heard that their breakfast buffet is a great value and food wise, is excellent, but don't want to get all dolled up and be worried about our p's and q's. Any comments?

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: barneyvernon

                                      Lacroix is in the Rittenhouse hotel one of the higher end luxury hotels, so its not a place for your birks and cutoffs, but since its breakfast I don't think you are going to find people wearing their gold lamé or bow ties.

                                      But if you are looking for other breakfast options, there are plenty of more down to earth places. May not be AYCE... but Kanella serves a wonderful breakfast, Honey sit n Eat is great as well.

                                      1. re: barneyvernon

                                        Is it possible you're confusing the Lacroix breakfast buffet with their much fancier and more expensive ($55+) brunch buffet on Sundays?

                                        cwdonald is right, there are a lot of great breakfast places (even though I'm a die hard Lacroix brunch fan) that are less fancy. Kanella is great (see the NYC Hound's write up of it recently), Supper is also excellent for brunch.

                                        1. re: urbanfabric

                                          The one other comment is it would appear that the express breakfast buffet which is served m-f til 10 and Saturday til 10:30 is NOT available on Sundays. So as urbanfabric cautions, please do not confuse the breakfast buffet with the brunch buffet which is what everyone raves about on this board.

                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                            Incidentally, has anyone tried the $16 Mon-Sat buffet? Looks like it could be good, and a fair price.

                                            1. re: barryg

                                              If the smoked salmon is good its worth the price just for that. Definitely will try it the next time I need a breakfast meeting in town!

                                              1. re: barryg

                                                This is what I am referring to - the $16 M-F buffet, NOT the more elaborate weekend brunch. Just looking for comments on this $16 buffet, as I heard it was a great deal and the food was a notch above your typical hotel brekky buffet.